Brotherhood of Carpenters v. United States, 330 U.S. 395 (1947)

Author: U.S. Supreme Court

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Brotherhood of Carpenters v. United States, 330 U.S. 395 (1947)

United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America

v. United States
No. 6

Argued March 8, 1945
Reargued April 29, 30, 1946 and October 15, 16, 1946
Decided March 10, 1947 *
330 U.S. 395



A group of local manufacturers of and dealers in millwork and patterned lumber and their incorporated trade associations and officials thereof and a group of unincorporated trade unions and their officials or business agents were indicted for conspiracy to violate § 1 of the Sherman Act. The indictment charged that they unlawfully combined and conspired together, successfully, to monopolize unduly a part of interstate commerce in the commodities for the purpose and with the effect of restraining out-of-state manufacturers from shipping and selling the commodities within a certain area and of preventing dealers in that area from freely handling them, and also for the purpose of raising the prices of the commodities; that, to achieve this purpose, a contract was entered into between defendants for a wage scale for members of labor unions working on the articles, combined with a restrictive clause that

no material will be purchased from, and no work will be done on any material or article that has had any operation performed on same by Saw Mills, Mills or Cabinet Shops, or their distributors that do not conform to the rates of wage and working conditions of this agreement;

and that this clause was enforced to the mutual advantage of defendants and to the disadvantage of other manufacturers and of consumers.


1. Conspiracies between employers and employees to restrain interstate commerce violate § 1 of the Sherman Act. Allen Bradley Co. v. Local Union No. 3, 325 U.S. 797. Pp. 400, 411.

2. The indictment charges a conspiracy forbidden by the Sherman Act. P. 401.

3. On that issue, the power of the trial court is limited by § 6 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 47 Stat. 70, which applies to all courts of the United States in all matters growing out of labor disputes covered by the Act which may come before them. P. 401.

4. The purpose and effect of § 6 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act is to relieve organizations, whether of labor or capital, and members of those organizations from liability for damages or imputations of guilt for lawless acts done in labor disputes by some individual officers or members of the organization without clear proof that the organization or member charged with responsibility for the offense actually participated, gave prior authorization, or ratified such acts after actual knowledge of their perpetration. P. 403.

5. The word "organization," as used in the Act, is not restricted to unincorporated entities, but covers generically all organizations that take part in labor disputes, including corporations. P. 403, n. 12.

6. While participants in a conspiracy covered by § 6 are not immunized from responsibility for authorized acts in furtherance of such a conspiracy, they are protected against liability for unauthorized illegal acts of other participants in the conspiracy. P. 404.

7. As used in § 6, "authorization" means something different from corporate criminal responsibility for the acts of officers and agents in the course or scope of employment. Its requirement restricts the responsibility or liability in labor disputes of employer or employee associations, organizations or their members for unlawful acts of the officers or members of those associations or organizations, although such officers or members are acting within the scope of their general authority as such officers or members, to those associations, organizations, or their officers or members who actually participate in the unlawful acts, except upon clear proof that the particular act charged, or acts generally of that type and quality, had been expressly authorized, or necessarily followed from authority granted, by the association or nonparticipating member sought to be charged or was subsequently ratified by such association, organization, or member after actual knowledge of its occurrence. Pp. 406-407.

8. A refusal to instruct the jury to this effect is reversible error -- as to both individuals and organizations and as to both employers and employees -- no matter how clear the evidence may be of participation in the conspiracy, since the defendants are entitled to have the jury instructed in accordance with the standards which Congress has prescribed. Pp. 407-412.

9. Prior to the decision of this Court in Allen Bradley Co. v. Local Union No. 3, supra, two employer groups, each containing an incorporated trade association and its officers and members, both individual and corporate, demurred to the indictment in this case on the ground that, as the restrictive agreement was directed at the maintenance of proper working conditions, the indictment did not state a crime under the Sherman Act. The demurrer was overruled, and they pleaded nolo contendere. This Court granted certiorari as to them.

Held: in view of the uncertainty existing at the time of their pleas of nolo contendere, as to liability for contracts between groups of employers and groups of employees that restrained interstate commerce, and as to the application of § 6 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, they should have an opportunity to make defense to the indictment notwithstanding their pleas of nolo contendere. Pp. 411-412.

144 F.2d 546 reversed.

Petitioners were convicted in a Federal District Court of a conspiracy to violate § 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1. 42 F.Supp. 910. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 144 F.2d 546. This Court granted certiorari. 323 U.S. 706-707. Reversed and remanded, p. 412.


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Chicago: U.S. Supreme Court, "Syllabus," Brotherhood of Carpenters v. United States, 330 U.S. 395 (1947) in 330 U.S. 395 330 U.S. 396–330 U.S. 398. Original Sources, accessed May 29, 2024,

MLA: U.S. Supreme Court. "Syllabus." Brotherhood of Carpenters v. United States, 330 U.S. 395 (1947), in 330 U.S. 395, pp. 330 U.S. 396–330 U.S. 398. Original Sources. 29 May. 2024.

Harvard: U.S. Supreme Court, 'Syllabus' in Brotherhood of Carpenters v. United States, 330 U.S. 395 (1947). cited in 1947, 330 U.S. 395, pp.330 U.S. 396–330 U.S. 398. Original Sources, retrieved 29 May 2024, from